Thomas, William Moy (DNB12)

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THOMAS, WILLIAM MOY (1828–1910), novelist and journalist, born in Hackney, Middlesex, on 3 Jan. 1828, was younger son of Moy Thomas, a solicitor. William's uncle, J. H. Thomas, co-author with the boy's father, of 'Synopsis of the Law of Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes' (1814), and also editor of 'Coke upon Littleton' (3 vols. 1818), took charge of the boy's education. But William soon left the study of the law to follow Literature as a profession. He became private secretary to Charles Wentworth Dilke [q. v.], proprietor of the 'Athenæum.' In 1850 he was introduced by Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd [q. v.] to Charles Dickens, who engaged him next year as a writer on 'Household Words,' to which he contributed down to 1858. He commenced to write criticisms in political philosophy for the 'Athenæum' in 1855, and contributed on literary history and political economy to 'Chambers's Journal,' the 'North British Review,' the 'Economist,' and other journals. His first book was an edition of the 'Poetical Works of William Collins' (1858), with notes and a useful biography. In the same year a series of able papers by him in 'Notes and Queries' established the facts about the biography of Richard Savage [q. v.]. In 1861 appeared his valuable edition of 'The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, edited by Lord Wharncliffe; third edition, with additions and corrections derived from the original MSS., illustrative notes and a new memoir’ (2 vols.; reprinted in Bohn's Series, 1887, 2 vols., and in 1893). In 1866-7 he was London correspondent of the New York 'Round Table' under the signature of 'Q,' and in 1868 he joined the staff of the 'Daily News,' writing the weekly article 'In the Recess' and the dramatic criticisms. He also wrote leading articles, reviews, and descriptive sketches for that newspaper down to 1901. He was the first editor of 'Cassell's Magazine,' in which appeared 'A Fight for Life' (3 vols. 1868), an excellent novel, which was dramatised. He was honorary secretary of the Authors' Protection Society (1873), and was instrumental in procuring the royal commission on copyright which reported in 1878 (John Hollingshead, My Lifetime, 1895, ii. 54-56). He was dramatic critic for the 'Academy' from 1875 to 1879, and for the 'Graphic' from 1870 until his active journalistic career closed some nine years before his death. He died after a long illness at Eastbourne on 21 July 1910.

He married Sara Maria, daughter of Commander Francis Higginson, R.N., who survived him, and by whom he had eight children, of whom two married daughters and one son, Frederick Moy Thomas, are living.

He also wrote:

  1. 'When the Snow falls,' 2 vols. 1859 (1861 and other editions; stories republished from 'Household Words').
  2. 'Pictures in a Mirror,' 1861 (tales).
  3. 'Golden Precepts, or the Opinions and Maxims of Prince Albert,' 1862.
  4. 'Toilers of the Sea,' by Victor Hugo, authorised English translation, 1866, 3 vols.

[Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Men of the Time, 1899; Who's Who, 1909; Athenæum, 30 July 1910; Morning Post, 29 July 1910; Daily News, 22 July 1910; Bookseller, 29 July 1910; John Hollingshead, My Lifetime, 1895, 2 vols, passim; Thomas Cooper's Life, 1873, p. 320; Sir John Robinson's Fifty Years of Fleet Street, ed. by F. Moy Thomas, 1904.]

H. R. T.